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The Islamic State's Expansion in the Philippines

Mar 22, 2016

A video released by the Islamic State's Al-Furat Media Foundation on March 21 shows a militant brigade called Jund al-Tawhid (Army of God's Unity) pledging allegiance to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The group named an individual called Abu Ahmad al-Muhajir as its emir. The pledge of allegiance received an official confirmation after it was mentioned in the Islamic State's daily news edition by the official broadcast agency, Al-Bayan.

Jund al-Tawhid is a faction of the Abu Sayyaf Group, a militant organization operating in the Southern Philippines since the early 1990s. While the group has traditionally been affiliated with Al-Qaeda, two other factions have also recently pledged their allegiance to the Islamic State, suggesting that the group may be fragmenting. Several other small groups from the country's Muslim minority also pledged allegiance to the IS leader.

The Philippines' largest rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, has been engaged in peace talks with the government and the two sides reached an agreement to facilitate the establishment of an autonomous region in the Muslim majority area of Mindanao. However, the Congress of the Philippines failed to approve the agreement last month, and frustration has reportedly been mounting in the region.

Both officials and rebels now fear that the political vacuum will end up being exploited by the Islamic State or by radical militant factions that will pledge allegiance to it. Murad Ibrahim, the leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, warned earlier this month that "IS can capitalize on frustration created by the non-passage of the law." However, Philippines' President Benigno Aquino denied in a recent statement the existence of IS cells in the country, referring to them instead as "mercenaries."

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Another Philippine militant faction pledges allegiance to IS